Maxim Chistokletov – thoughtSeeker
Tell us something about your life until now?
I was born in the north part of the Russia, in a really small town, famous for its atomic submarine plant. Actually it is the biggest atomic submarine plant in Russia, and for that maybe in the entire world. This area is notorious also for its submarine “Kursk”, which sank a couple of years ago. So, I was born in this small town where people usually wake up at 7, go to the plant, do their work and come back home. I found that I was losing interest, that’s why I decided to leave for St. Petersburg. I really wanted to see the world. And St. Pete offers more opportunities work-related. It’s also a window to Europe. So, I left.
I managed to get a higher education. I am a professional translator and interpreter in both English and German. I did half year in Corvinius University of Budapest and 2 months in the Vienna University. I chose the entrepreneurial classes, open innovation and entrepreneur classes for 2 months. I loved my stay in Vienna, I think of it as the best time of my life, actually. While doing my masters I started dancing salsa first. Then it happened that I was one of the founders of Zouk in St. Petersburg. Zouk dance is Brazilian type of dance, actually derived from Lambada. It’s quite difficult, lots of body, lots of head movements. So, in St. Petersburg I created the brand “Piter Zouk”. It’s St. Petersburg and Zouk. And now I’m promoting Brazilian culture and Brazilian dance in St. Petersburg and actually in northern Russia. I am giving workshops and master classes in the entire Russian federation and the Ukraine as well.
What brought you to Zouk?
Salsa brought me to Zouk. I graduated the school of management and I started dancing salsa. At that time, my girlfriend was teaching Zouk. She is my first teacher and my main critique, when it comes to dancing. You could say I started doing Zouk because I fell in love with her. We were a couple in real life and then we became a couple at dancing. That is how I started Zouk as well. Usually you have a partner where you can learn from. At that time, two years ago, there were no partners, so there was no one I could learn the moves from. I decided to take private classes from professional Brazilian Zumba dancers. When I graduated, I started teaching myself, here in St. Petersburg.
Why do you dance Zouk and don’t dance other dances like Salsa or anything else? What makes Zouk special?
I started with Salsa. I really fell in love with this dance. However, it depends on the mood. But Zouk has completely different feeling and it gives you completely different emotions. Salsa is a lot of fun. When you dance the Rueda, you keep changing partners, and you have fun, you laugh. But Zouk has more passion, more feeling to it. Because the contact is really close, even while doing the basic steps you are really close to your partner. And everything is on the leading, everything. The hips, the body, the head, everything flows from leading.
When I started dancing Zouk I understood that while you dance Zouk with your partner, you get acquainted to her, you flirt with her, you make love with her, you argue with her and at the end you break up with her.
This dance makes you feel all types of emotions. It’s amazing! That’s why I am teaching Zouk and trying to convey my thoughts and understanding of the dance to my students.
What is your motivation in life in general?
I think I am lucky because two years ago I understood what I wanted to do. Because until then, I didn’t know what I should do with my life and that was destroying me. Now I understand that I want to teach. I want to help this dancing culture evolve. I want it to grow. I want to promote Zouk and other different activities connected to Zouk.
For example, I am creating a website devoted to dancing. I want to cover all the dance events in Russia. I want to cover all the different dance events connected to salsa, Bachata, Zouk, Tango I want to create a platform that will give all the information. For example, if you just came to Russia and you don’t know where to go, to have fun, you can check out all the parties on my website. I want to collect all the data – schools, where you can learn to dance, parties with different types of dancing – on this big platform. I also have planned to sell dancing shoes, I want to create my own brand and I have actually developed it now. I am creating my own team of designers that will create the brand. So it’s a business approach. I know what I want to do, what is planned and that motivates me. And the biggest motivation is that I love this world, I love teaching but also organizing parties and dance classes. My students are really happy because they are dancing. And they are enjoying their time. They’re communicating. And I sometimes feel myself like a father. A father with even 200 kids, sometimes. That motivates me a lot. That’s an unforgettable feeling. I come to the party that I organized and there, 90% of people are my students, my kids. That’s cool!
I can share my world! And I do understand that this job – being a dance teacher – is a disgrace in Russia. Unfortunately, in Russia teachers and doctors are underpaid. So you would never want to be a teacher or a doctor. As a kid, I never thought I would be a teacher. But I am right now a teacher. I teach other dances and I’m proud of that! That’s cool!
How should be a perfect teacher?
The perfect teacher always tries to be better. This is the reason why I teach alongside my girlfriend, my partner. We are convinced that a girl learning to dance can learn better watching the female partner moving. Also, a man can learn from another man’s style and moves. In terms of methodology the students should watch both.
We are trying to learn from other professionals, and to adapt it to Russian reality. Because unfortunately Russian men don’t dance like the proverb says. And also because Russia is a really conservative, mind and soul, because of the soviet legacy. So we are trying to adapt everything and teach step by step so the guys should not only dance but they should feel dance, understand it. Respect the partner of course because dancing is a way of communication. And they should love what they do. That’s what we are teaching.
What was your biggest challenge in life until now?
The biggest challenge in the past is still the biggest challenge in the present. Trying to focus my career on teaching and dancing, and having enough money to resign my other job, in business management. I am sure that I will be able to bring Zouk culture and dance furthermore in Russia.
What is exactly Zouk?
Zouk is not just a dance. It’s the way you feel. When you start dancing with a girl, you experience all different types of emotions. So you get acquainted with the girl when you start dancing the Zouk. Then you fall in love with her. Then you make love with her. Then you quarrel, then you argue with her during dance and then you eventually by the end of the dance you split. Maybe you will re-unite again but who knows?
Why do you want to develop it? Why do you teach it?
I just can’t stop really. I realized at one point of time that I love beginners. It’s easy to teach the masters and the advanced, because they know everything. But when you start dancing the moves are so stiff. It’s like a blank, clean sheet of paper. And you are actually like a carpenter, carving everything from him or her that is not needed.
Final message for the viewers?
I just want to say what I usually say to myself: telling myself that everything is going to be alright. I think in life you should never ever think that what you did in the past will not return to you in the future. So you should always respect people that you are dealing with, communicating with, even the people you only meet once. You should never spit in a well because in the future you might drink from it.
You should always be proud of what you are doing in life and you should try to do it the best you can.
You shouldn’t be satisfied with half of the result.
You should try to strive to be the best in what you do. You should always be hungry for something.
And only if you are hungry, you would be able to perform and achieve what you want in your life and be satisfied.
If you have everything, it’s too easy to settle down, to stop the progress, because only wanting more will give you motivation for innovation. This is really important! Also, you should always try to teach other people. I mean you should always share the knowledge. Because in your life once you get the knowledge from other people and you have mentors, at some point of your life you should be the mentor. If you realize that and share the knowledge with other people, I think the world would be a better place. This world is wild, and we tend to get so angry, because everything keeps changing. But, if you help someone, if you share your wisdom and your knowledge, you are doing a good deed. A small drop of good in this world we’re living can be useful.
You should strive for the best and always be hungry in life. That will motivate you. That will give you power to live.
You should always share your knowledge with other people. You should not only take but give a lot. Be ready at any time of your life to be the mentor to someone that needs it.